Accreditation Mills: Red Flags to Watch Out For

November 27, 2012 Category: College Tips

When doing any research about choosing colleges and universities, the term “accreditation” almost always pops up. By definition, a school that has been deemed “accredited” is publicly recognized or credited as an institution that meets the standards in keeping with good, quality excellence in education.

The private agencies that grant accreditation ensure the degree programs and other educational factors a school offers meets a stringent set of requirements.

It is important that the colleges students are considering applying to be properly accredited through legitimate agencies. Of course this is less of an concern for those planning on submitting to renowned choices like Ivy League schools, state universities, etc. However, where technical and vocational schools are concerned, students need to be diligent in their research when looking at these types of schools.

College AccreditationOne of the key factors to identify when researching a school isn’t limited to whether or not a school has been accredited but who it has been accredited by. This information shouldn’t be difficult to locate somewhere on the school’s official website. Having trouble? Contact the campus directly to find out.

Once the name of the accrediting agency/organization is known, go online and look them up. These agencies should have an official website complete with information in regards to how they operate, who they are and other vital info. If there is no such website or if the site seems suspicious, it’s highly likely to be a red flag of an accreditation mill.

Accreditation mills operate similarly to diploma mills in the sense that they offer their services–in this case, accreditation recognition–for high fees and using business practices that are unethical and even illegal. When browsing through the site for an agency that claims to provide accreditation to colleges and universities, major red flags to be on the lookout for include but aren’t limited to:

  • Offering Permanent Accreditation Status: Legitimate accrediting agencies require all of its schools to submit to periodic reviews, which must be successfully passed in order to have the accreditation status renewed. Even renowned schools have to abide by this requirement to keep their recognition.
  • False Claims of Accreditation: If the agency website lists the names of schools it claims to have granted accreditation to, do some fact checking. If no such relationship exists with the schools named or if the schools don’t seem to exist, that’s a major red flag.
  • Quick Approval for High Fees: Any agency that charges high fees for instant approval and accreditation status is the number one sign of an accreditation mill.

So what’s the big deal about attending an accredited school? Graduating from a school that hasn’t been accredited basically means the degree received has no value. The result: a lot of wasted time and money for a piece of paper that won’t be officially recognized by employers and even other educational institutions. Additionally, students that want to transfer from a non-accredited school to one that is accredited likely won’t have their credits accepted by the new institution, causing the student to have to start all over with taking their courses.

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